The largest since 1964 – Update

A tsunami generated by the 8.8 earthquake in Chile is expected to hit Hawaii at about 11:30 am local time. My friend’s family has already been evacuated from their Hilo home. My in-laws live on Pacific Heights, so they are safe.

The Ewa Beach, Hawaii-based center called for “urgent action to protect lives and property” in Hawaii, which is among 53 nations and territories subject to tsunami warnings.

“The main thing is we want everyone to take this event seriously,” said Charles McCreery, director of the center.

McCreery said he didn’t know how big the waves will be, but he expected them to be the largest to hit Hawaii since 1964.

The state planned to sound warning sirens statewide at 6 a.m. to alert residents and tourists of the incoming tsunami, said Shelly Ichishita, spokeswoman for state civil defense.

People in coastal areas, such as tourist-filled Waikiki, will then be instructed on a possible evacuation. The sirens will also be sounded again three hours prior to the estimated arrival time.

[...]

The largest earthquake ever recorded struck the same area of Chile in 1960. The deadly wave that it caused raced across the Pacific and hit the Hilo area of the Big Island, where 61 people were killed.

As a kid I visited the Big Island where lines were drawn inside buildings showing how high the water came. This is scary.

Update: It is starting to appear that the tsunami may not be as large as immediately feared, still, it is coming and there is no way of really knowing what it will look like.

From NOAA:

A TSUNAMI HAS BEEN GENERATED THAT COULD CAUSE DAMAGE ALONG COASTLINES OF ALL ISLANDS IN THE STATE OF HAWAII. URGENT ACTION SHOULD BE TAKEN TO PROTECT LIVES AND PROPERTY.

A TSUNAMI IS A SERIES OF LONG OCEAN WAVES. EACH INDIVIDUAL WAVE CREST CAN LAST 5 TO 15 MINUTES OR MORE AND EXTENSIVELY FLOOD COASTAL AREAS. THE DANGER CAN CONTINUE FOR MANY HOURS AFTER THE INITIAL WAVE AS SUBSEQUENT WAVES ARRIVE. TSUNAMI WAVE HEIGHTS CANNOT BE PREDICTED AND THE FIRST WAVE MAY NOT BE THE LARGEST. TSUNAMI WAVES EFFICIENTLY WRAP AROUND ISLANDS. ALL SHORES ARE AT RISK NO MATTER WHICH DIRECTION THEY FACE. THE TROUGH OF A TSUNAMI WAVE MAY TEMPORARILY EXPOSE THE SEAFLOOR BUT THE AREA WILL QUICKLY FLOOD AGAIN. EXTREMELY STRONG AND UNUSUAL NEARSHORE CURRENTS CAN ACCOMPANY A TSUNAMI. DEBRIS PICKED UP AND CARRIED BY A TSUNAMI AMPLIFIES ITS DESTRUCTIVE POWER. SIMULTANEOUS HIGH TIDES OR HIGH SURF CAN SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE THE TSUNAMI HAZARD.

THE ESTIMATED ARRIVAL TIME IN HAWAII OF THE FIRST TSUNAMI WAVE IS

1105 AM HST SAT 27 FEB 2010